When I started as a beginner triathlete and people found out I do triathlons, some of them just think “oh- you are one of those crazy people” and either change the conversation immediately or walk away.
But most of them actually get a wistful look and say “oh wow- I would love to do that…”
And then I know what is coming…… all the reasons they CAN’T do it…….
That is when I want to walk away or change the conversation….
I am sure you have heard them before… and I bet some of you have even said them :)
If you are thinking of becoming a beginner triathlete have you ever said:
“Oh, I would love to do that but:
* I can’t swim
* I don’t have a bike
* I don’t have a good enough bike
* I am not fit enough
* I’m not very good at running
* What if everyone laughs at me?
* What if I don’t fit in?
* What if I come last?
* It just looks so complicated”
and so on…
All of these excuses are code words for “I’m scared!”
And by the way, that is what they are: excuses- they are not real, they are not valid, they are not worthy of your thoughts or taking up space in your brain!
It is the same the fear that goes through grown adults minds when they see someone they like the look of in a bar or cafe (or in the triathlon club!)
Why don’t you go over and ask him/her for a date/a coffee/ whatever?
We know the barrage of excuses that will come back don’t we?
“Oh I’d love to but what if he/she said no?”
Nothing bad will happen
“What if he/she will think I’m an idiot?”
He/she won’t- they will be flattered, then politely let you know they are not interested or already in a relationship or yes they would love to and thank you so much for asking”
Or a ton of other trivial, meaningless excuses for NOT having a backbone and just going to ask for what you want.
“My hair is a mess”
(He/she won’t care)
“I don’t have the right clothes on”
(As long as you have some clothes on- you will be fine)
“He/she is probably seeing someone”
(You won’t know this unless you ask. Also they may be seeing someone but be unhappy and looking to exit the relationship)
Whether its the man/woman of their dreams, whether it is the promotion at work, whether it is trying someone new- tango classes/triathlon/learning a new language/travelling to an exotic location.
So let’s get real and be adults about this and get our dreams back- whether you want to be a beginner triathlete or climb Everest or ask that cute boy/girl in the office on a date
Of course, if you have not done something before it will be a bit scary….
Of course there will be some unknowns…
Of course you will have voices in your head shouting at you to stop, go home, don’t even try, you could be sitting on the sofa enjoying a yummy pizza and a beer…..
Sure- yep- you could and then when you got to the end of the year and looked at what you had achieved..would you see anything that made you proud of yourself?
So this article is not going to contain a secret of of turning off the voices that try to talk us out of doing cool stuff ALL THE TIME!
No: guess what- that voice will always be there!
What we have to do is practice being stronger than the voice!
Learn how to get mental toughness in triathlon
This voice will hold you back, it will rob you of your dreams and make you think you deserve to be less than you are capable of.
And what for?
Let’s address the fears/excuses for NOT becoming a beginner triathlete one by one and expose them for what they are- Utter garbage!
1) I can’t swim
Great- then grab some lessons…..and practice!
What a great opportunity to learn new skill. It won’t take forever. Grab a course of 10 learn to swim lessons.
Where most people go wrong is they do not practice. ( You need to practice!)
Or they do not get any lessons.
Swimming is a very technical sport and in my opinion, you DO need lessons.
But if you do not practice- yes, I am afraid you will never get very good.
Do 1 lesson a week plus AT LEAST 2 practice sessions a week(more if possible but 2 practices will get you there.)
Problem solved- this is not a valid fear….!
(Of course if you really do not want to learn to swim, then just sign up for duathlons….and get really good at bike and run: again-problem solved)!
2) I don’t have a bike
Buy one or borrow one.
Many people have good bikes that they never use and would be happy to lend it to you.
If you want to buy one- it does not have to be expensive…. get an entry level bike and just start cycling.
If you are just starting out- do not go and spend thousands on the latest, expensive bike. This is unnecessary- and you won’t appreciate it anyway.
Just grab any bike you can afford and start cycling.
Enter a couple of events and see if you like it, then later you can upgrade if you wish to.
But do not stress about having an expensive bike…. when you go to triathlon competitions- you will be amazed at all the different types of bikes there- some $10 specials, some rusty old clangers from the back of the shed, mountain bikes, bikes with streamers coming out the handle bars.. all sorts!
Of course the very expensive blinged up bikes will be there too but everyone is welcome.
3) I don’t have a good enough bike
In fact in my first race (a friend entered me) I turned up on an old mountain bike, I was totally unprepared, no special gear, no nutritional supplements, I borrowed a wetsuit that did not fit very well, but I absolutely loved it and came 3rd in my age category…..
4) I am not fit enough
Start training! You do not get fit by sitting on the sofa and talking about why you can’t do stuff.
Also when you look at triathlon distances, the sprint ones are very short distances.
Some events even offer “Super Sprint Series” which are perfect to try it out if you are a beginner triathlete.
Most people of very average ability and below average fitness can complete these.
They are a great way to not invest much money or time and just get a taste for it.
Once you come across that finish line, you will be hooked (and find out it is not as scary as that silly voice in your head pretends it is).
5) I’m not very good at running
If the issue is that you just don’t run, then start gradually building up.
There is plenty of running advice, drills and training programmes around for beginner triathletes to help you.
However if the issue is that you keep getting injured e.g. Achilles problems, knee pain, shin splints- then it is a problem with how you run.
In this case get a gait analysis from a physical therapist to help you improve the way you run. This will prevent these biomechanical injuries returning.
6) What if everyone laughs at me?
I do not know where this fear comes from. As a beginner triathlete, this may be one of your biggest fears.
At NO event I have ever seen or been involved with have I seen ANYONE being laughed at – ever!
This is a strange one. And ridiculous- so just forget it…
At every event I have witnessed, the other competitors are so supportive- whether it is an ironman triathlon, a 5km run or a swimming event people will do one of two things:
Either a) they finish their race and and are so absorbed with themselves they just talk amongst their friends about what time they did and deconstruct the race…. i.e. they are NOT looking at you!
or b) they are being really encouraging and supportive and clapping everyone else in.
7) What if I don’t fit in?
There are so many styles, so many characters, it really does not matter.
Besides you will find out at any event- that everyone else is so damn nervous as well- they do not give you a second glance… everyone is going through the same fears…
8) What if I come last?
Well- this does have to happen to one person in every race!
Even in the Olympics- the most outstanding group of super athletes, the top elite group in the world whose strength, speed and agility would crush all of us in a split second… one of these people will come last..in every heat, very final and in every sport.
And even worse for them- they are coming last on international television- where it can be replayed again and again and again and watched in slow motion…
Does that stop them?
For the rest of their lives they can say they qualified for the Olympic team.
So really – for us- at our events, at beginner triathlete level, (for most people- not televised) there is no risk, no looking foolish, no embarrassment. There is only upside!
Also you will amazed at the support for ALL competitors whether you come last or first- no one really cares and everyone is valued.
At the end of the day you will have completed an event, be able to call yourself a triathlete and book the next one.
Now -I will humour you for a minute- just suppose that your biggest fear is coming last and this actually does happen on the day, so what?
What will actually happen?
What is the worst case scenario?
You will get tons of respect and support from all the competitors, your friends, family, race officials and feel amazing about yourself.
Everyone is so supportive, encouraging and fab- you will be amazed!
Geez- we really have nothing to worry about!
Its not like the last one over the finish line will be eaten by a pack of lions!
Or the last one home will be left to be beaten, raped and killed by a bunch or neighbouring warriors…
NOTHING bad will actually happen!
So please forget this one!
9) It just looks so complicated
It is not. As a beginner triathlete there does seem to be a lot to learn.
You swim, then cycle, then run.
Grab Dan Golding’s book Triathlon for Beginners to get the overview and everything you need to know.
Yes you have to take off a wetsuit and put on a helmet, yes you have to change your cycling shoes for running shoes.
Do not over complicate it!
So make sure you lighten up, just book a short race and and see what happens.
Make this fun, it gives you training goal.
Here is a great video from Ben Greenfield answering some beginner questions on your first triathlon:
There are age group categories so you are just competing against your age group.
So do not worry if you are 65 years old and have never done this before.
You are not actually competing against the 20 yr olds.. (although if you train hard- you may beat some them)
As Eleanor Roosevelt said ” do something every day that scares you!”
She is right!
If we do not do this- how do we grow?
Answer: we don’t!
We become shadows of our former selves
We never fulfil our potential.
We live lives of regret and mediocrity
Maybe for most of us we cannot manage doing something scary every day- but on your goals list you certainly should have at least one or two challenges per year which scare you, that you go after and achieve…
If you are tempted to become a beginner triathlete- just sign up today and work out the details later. It is amazing what will happen once you have committed. THEN prepare as much as you can. If you want to know basic bike repair skills- use this resource
And just so you are aware in advance….. the week before the race – you WILL feel like you are not ready and the voice inside your head will be SCREAMING at you to pull out…..
Do NOT listen to it… and turn up anyway
On the morning of the race you WILL be absolutely petrified….
Do NOT listen to the voice inside your head giving you a million rationalisations on why you should not turn up, “fake an injury” “say the car broke down”, etc … do NOT listen to it-
Acknowledge now that this WILL happen.. then when it does just laugh at it and turn up anyway!
If you want a program to help you and take you through the basics of mind training and getting mentally tough, check out this program.
It is by triathletes for triathletes and will help you banish negative thoughts get “in the zone”, and build inner confidence. Focus on the result- After the race- no matter where you come- you will be driving home with your head held high and chest puffed out, proud of yourself and that you have achieved something most people do not do.
Everyone has the ability to do one…. most will succumb to the voice….. then rationalise why they can’t!
So sign up for something that scares you today- if you have never done a triathlon- sign up to a small distance one.
If you have done a few small ones, sign up to a half iron-man or a full iron-man!
And ask someone on a date this week!
Just for practice in pushing your comfort zones.
If you are married- ask your spouse on a date (if you are training hard- they probably deserve a night out !)
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